How to manage workplace capacity in 2020

The pandemic has totally shattered workplace norms, so it’s going to take a while before we see organizations returning to work at full capacity. When it does happen, it will require extensive planning and constantly evolving styles of people management. In addition to the logistics of phasing people back into the office and staggering shifts, you’ll need to work with your team to address their anxieties and make sure they feel comfortable in their environment.

But the transition back to the workplace can be challenging. Keeping track of staggered shifts in spreadsheets, notifying employees of rotating schedules, and managing the number of people who come in and out of the office can take a lot of time and organization.

So, here’s a list of tips to help make workplace capacity management easier for everyone throughout the rest of 2020 and beyond.


Use technology and software

Technology and software have become commonplace to most employees after working remotely for most of the year. So, take advantage of your team’s new tech-savviness by using software to help with the transition back to the workplace.

An office capacity management tool can help schedule your team in the shared workspace by controlling how many people enter the building on a particular day. It can also help you make the most efficient use of your workspace.

One such office capacity management tool is Get Working, which allows employees to reserve their spots at the office on a day-to-day basis. Workers can select what date and time they want to use the office, while admins can set limits that allow only a select number of employees to reserve space in the same building, floor, or work area.

Get Working even comes with a self-assessment screening tool that allows employees to check for COVID-19 symptoms. Employees who do not pass the pre-screening will not be able to book office space, lowering the risk of transmission at work. And all results are stored on individual employees’ phones, keeping their personal information private and secure.


Embrace flexible schedules

Everybody’s world has been turned upside down by the pandemic, and people adapt to change differently. Flexible schedules not only allow you to control the flow of people in and out of your physical workplace but let employees split time between home and the office and gives them the ability to switch up their work hours when needed, increasing productivity.

Working for a few small chunks of the day rather than a straight eight-hour shift might allow some employees to manage their stress better, deal with a child or elderly care obligations, or run errands at non-peak hours. Instead of dividing upshifts by time, managers should also consider assigning a particular project or piece of work that needs to be completed and let employees work at their own pace rather than on a set schedule.

In addition to flexible work schedules, it’s important for managers to check in with employees and make sure that their concerns about returning to the office are heard and addressed—in doing so, they’ll better be prepared to return to work (if they are comfortable with the safety measures being taken), and know that their job won’t be at risk if they do get sick.


Master the virtual meeting

Virtual meetings can be difficult to organize due to busy and overlapping schedules, technology issues, and questionable employee engagement practices. But once you get the hang of them, they can be an excellent team-building and decision-making exercise and even be fun.

There are plenty of software options that allow you to invite and remind your team members of upcoming meetings, incorporate photo and video content, and involve your employees by making the meetings interactive. Try to find one that’s right for your business and team culture.


Check your workspace limit

Social distancing is still in effect, so you should assess your office space to figure out how it can be best utilized while still keeping employees safe.

Once you’ve determined how many people can safely fit on each floor or in each area of the building, set that number as the limit and take steps to ensure that it isn’t surpassed—either through a staff member keeping count at the entrance or by using an app to track employees.

You will also need to account for common areas like washrooms, cafeterias, and break rooms. If they remain open, implement a scheduling system so that not too many people congregate at one time. Alternatively, set up additional common spaces or coffee in unused areas to further distance employees throughout the office (just don’t forget to clean and disinfect them frequently).


Make physical alterations

If you currently have an open floor office plan, consider putting up barriers like plexiglass walls or cubicles to physically separate employees. Other suggestions include taping off or completely removing every other desk to allow two metres between each workstation.

In common areas, mark where it is or is not safe to be (e.g., one seat available on a couch, but not two; locking every other bathroom stall; installing markers on the ground near the entrance, in case multiple employees arrive at the same time, etc.).

Directional markers can also be used on the floor to create one-way traffic, which lessens the risk for employees passing by each other and possibly transmitting COVID-19.